What would Bai Yuqiao tell them? Without a doubt, the answer would affect Long Feiye’s choice. That night, neither he nor Han Yunxi had a wink of sleep. Meanwhile, Tang LI had already rushed out of the city to await General Baili and the deputy generals’ arrivals. He stood in the whistling north wind as it whipped through his cape. The gale hurt his face and stung his eyes so much he couldn’t even keep them open. A wind like this was perfectly carrying tears away.
However, Tang Li knew he wasn’t crying.
He stood there for an entire night, allowing the wind and snow to buffet him the whole time. When General Baili and the deputy generals arrived in the storm, he was stunned by the sight of Tang Li. “Tang Clan Head, you...why are you here?”
The Tang Clan and the Baili Army had a very intricate relationship. In terms of status, the Tang Clan was no more noble than the Baili, who were originally one of the Seven Noble Families. Neither could it compare in power and influence, since Great General Baili had an entire navy while Baili Yuanlong had assembled an army force for the civil unrest in Tianning.
However, the Tang Clan had given birth to Consort Wan and became the relatives to the noble house, thus raising their status. Tang Zijin and Aunt Ru both claimed to be Long Feiye’s seniors, greatly displeasing Baili Yuanlong, who was a subordinate. Meanwhile, his harsh and exacting demands regarding the Tang Clan’s assassination weapons also displeased the Tang Clan. Naturally, all of that was hidden in his heart. He wouldn’t be so foolish as to start internal strife before East Qin even revived its dynasty. Thus, in his eyes Tang Li was no different from a wastrel son. If not for His Highness, Baili Yuanlong would never pay this “Tang Clan Head” any attention.
Two months ago, His Highness was so anxious to rescue Tang Li’s wife, the Di Clan daughter Ning Jing, that he insisted on sending out troops come spring. He had exchanged no less than 30 letters with His Highness on the matter, but failed to convince him. From then on, he began to look down on the Tang Clan and Tang Li. To him, Tang Li was not only a wastrel, but a worthless good-for-nothing dragging them down! Which son of the Baili clan hadn’t fought their share of bloody battles? Which of their daughters hadn’t made great sacrifices for the great undertaking of East Qin? Even Baili Mingxiang, who didn’t marry anyone, had suffered the torment of raising poison in her bloodstream. Why did the Tang Clan get to be the exception? Why were they supposed to protect the Tang Clan’s Di Clan wife and sacrifice their Baili soldiers in her place?
Baili Yuanlong was too unresigned. Although he didn’t argue with His Highness last time and stopped the letters, this time he was determined to fight one more time. Unlike his civility of the past, Baili Yuanlong’s tone was full of meaning as he said “Tang Clan Head.” The old Tang Li might be perplexed at his tone, because he only knew Baili Yuanlong was dissatisfied with the Tang Clan, but not one to express it outright. Now Tang Li could see right through him.
He smiled cynically, adopting the airs of a ruffian young master. “General Baili, this nephew personally came to greet you!”
“Heheh, you’re His Highness’s younger brother. A mere soldier like myself doesn’t dare inconvenience you!” Baili Yuanlong mocked.
Tang Li tilted his head to one side, still wearing a casual grin. “General Baili, I actually didn’t want to come either. But…”
“But what?” Baili Yuanlong grew curious.
“But my big bro was afraid you’d bother him as soon as you came, like some damned old fly that just won’t die buzzing around his ear. Zzzt zzt zzt! So he told me to come stop you…”
“What kind of nonsense are you spewing?!” Baili Yuanlong interrupted brusquely. “Tang Li, I’m telling you now, your life would long be forfeit if it wasn’t for His Highness protecting you!”
“So what if my big bro protects me? Are you jealous?” Tang Li laughed out loud. “How about you have your big brother fight mine in a one-on-one duel?”
Baili Yuanlong almost spat up blood at that comment. The deputy generals behind him narrowly avoided a laugh. Leaving aside the fact that Baili Yuanlong had no older brother, any potential sibling of his was no match for Long Feiye one-on-one! That was just seeking death!
“Tang Li, you’re using the strength of others to bully us. What does that count for!” a deputy general cried out.
“This clan head is precisely doing that. So what?” Tang Li asked coldly. “My big bro told me to pass on a message for you guys. Are you going to hear it or not? Who are you aiming those words at?!”
Hearing this, the generals felt that Tang Li really had been sent by His Highness.
“What is it? Hurry up and speak!” Baili Yuanlong pushed.
Tang Li rubbed his chin and began muttering to himself, “Where did my big brothers get it? Oh right, something about flies. My big bro thinks you’re as annoying as a gadfly, so he personally told me to tell you…”
Once again, he repeated the insult, thoroughly incensing Baili Yuanlong.
“Enough! Tang Li, you just wait--”
“So my big bro personally sent me to tell you that the punitive expedition to the north will be delayed until the end of spring, approaching summer,” Tang Li cut in loudly. “You guys can go back. Return in two months’ time!”
Baili Yuanlong and the deputy generals were struck speechless. They could hardly believe their ears. His Highness had changed his mind? They had even prepared all sorts of reasons to coax him to their side, but who knew he’d change before they ever reached Three-Way Black Market? The Di Clan wanted to save Ning Cheng as soon as possible, so of course they approved of an early march. So then, who shifted His Highness’s views? Now they were told to return just like that?
Baili Yuanlong began to regard Tang Li more carefully. Still, the man was nothing more than his usual careless self, like some rich dandy son. How could this damned brat agree to His Highness’s change of mind? Why is he acting like nothing’s wrong?
Isn’t he going to raise a ruckus? Wouldn’t he be panicking?
Baili Yuanlong didn’t believe it, but Tang Li had spoken the words out of his own mouth. There was no reason to doubt them. He knew that out of anyone, Tang Li had the most motive to lie on this matter.
“Tang Li, this...what is going on?” Baili Yuanlong asked seriously.
“If you’re supposed to go back, then go back. Are you going to defy orders?” Tang Li asked before taking out a command token. This was property of the East Qin imperial clan and seeing it was equivalent to seeing Long Feiye himself.
Actually, he didn’t have a token of his own--this was one of Xu Donglin’s, used to run errands and tasks. Last night he’d nicked it off the guard before heading out.
Seeing the command token sent Baili Yuanlong and the others to their knees while quashing all their questions. All of them exclaimed, “We subordinates obey the order!”
Baili Yuanlong mounted his horse after getting to his feet, but paused before leaving to coldly toss back, “Tang Li, who convinced His Highness? I’ll have to trouble you to bring them my thanks!”
“Alright!” Tang Li grinned until his eyes were pretty crescents. It wasn’t until Baili Yuanlong’s group vanished into the morning snow that Tang Li’s smile faded away into his original dull expression.
At this point, Xu Donglin emerged from his hiding point, close to the point of tears. “Master Li, I’m begging you, hurry up and return the command token to this subordinate! This subordinate is going to be in big trouble! This subordinate is doomed!”
“What are you afraid of? This clan head will protect you!” Tang Li said as he tossed the tablet back.
“Tang Clan Head, this subordinate must report this matter to His Highness, I cannot--”
“Can you pipe down? I want some peace and quiet.”
Xu Donglin shriveled up at Tang Li’s words. He could be tough and unyielding towards the Baili Army in His Highness’s name, but not to Tang Li himself.
“Peace and quiet? Jing Jing?” (静静)
Tang Li broke into a pained smile. He only wanted some peace and quiet by himself, but why...why did that phrase turn into he wanted Jing Jing instead?
Just how much did he miss Jing Jing?
“Xu Donglin, go ahead and report me. You might as well tell big bro that...I and Ning Jing and the baby will all be waiting for him.” So speaking, Tang Li jumped astride his horse and galloped into the snowstorm.
It was unclear how Tang Li’s actions against Baili Yuanlong would affect Long Feiye and Han Yunxi in the long run. For now, the two of them were still debating possibilities. Meanwhile, another person was keeping tabs on the timing of the punitive expedition to the north.
That man was none other than Bai Yanqing.
After leaving the Heretical Sword Sect, he ended up in Northern Li. Currently, he was in Skyriver City, where Jun Yixie had first taken possession of his troops. Although Jun Yixie had changed all of his men to clear out Bai Yanqing’s trusted aides, the man still had methods to plant agents by his side. After all, he was Jun Yixie’s master, so he knew the boy like the palm of his hand. Bai Yanqing was perfectly clear on the number of hostages in Jun Yixie’s hands, the details of his agreement with Ning Cheng, and various other things.
“Master, Jun Yixie asked to borrow Ning Cheng’s red coat cannons again a few days ago,” a retainer reported.
“Heheh, the red coat cannons won’t save him. Only the hostages at Tiger’s Den can. Wait until spring comes, because the East-West Qin alliance will definitely unite to attack the north!” Bai Yanqing grinned.
“Master, East and West Qin just finished a battle in the south yesterday!” the retainer was confused.
“Heheh, they’re only putting on a show. Wait and watch: the Di Clan is so anxious to save their master that they’ll head north come spring for sure!” Bai Yanqing was certain.
Jun Yixie couldn’t see the full picture, but he did. He had been observing the various skirmishes between East and West Qin this entire time and had long gotten a clue. He was convinced that Ning Cheng had thoroughly tricked Jun Yixie, but he couldn’t figure out how the man was coordinating with the Di Clan and Long Feiye’s faction while stuck within the army. With Jun Yixie’s personality, he’d be lax on the other hostages but keep a tight reins on Ning cheng. Bai Yanqing’s agents were still investigating in secret, but they still hadn’t uncovered Ning Cheng’s confidante.
“How about making a bet? A massive war will begin come spring!” Bai Yanqing was in quite a good mood.
The retainer didn’t dare to take up the offer. “Master is wise and brilliant, this servant is slow and stupid!”
Bai Yanqing didn’t comment, but only smiled coldly. As long as the northern campaign begins, Long Feiye and Han Yunxi will have harder chances to go to Celestial Mountain. That would give the Heretical Sword Sect more time to finish their task!
Bai Yanqing could never guess that the one who betrayed Jun Yixie was none other than his good disciple Bai Yuqiao, who had loved her senior brother for years.
And yet, Jun Yixie did!
That day, he received a secret letter from the soldiers sent to inspect Tiger’s Prison.
Everyone give some applause for Tang Li's unexpected character growth arc! Woohoo~
On the other hand, looks like our heroes are settling down just as our villains stir up new developments...more exciting things ahead for us all!